When it comes to wishing upon a star, Annie Leibovitz has far more influence than Jiminy Cricket.
The famed photographer's reputation, combined with the allure of Disney, has sent a pop princess to Wonderland, a soccer stud to slay a dragon and an acclaimed actress scurrying slipperless down a staircase. PHOTOS: Annie Leibovitz makes Disney dreams
Recruited by Disney to promote Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Year of a Million Dreams campaign, Leibovitz persuaded her famous friends to dress up as classic Disney characters. The first images in this ongoing series will appear in the March issues of Vogue
, Vanity Fair
, Conde Nast Traveller
and The New Yorker
"We started by looking at the classic stories —Snow White
, The Little Mermaid
, Peter Pan
," Leibovitz says in an e-mail interview. "We put 10 or 12 of the obvious ones into development. The people we got to play the central roles in the first series of photographs felt the way I did about Disney. They all grew up with Disney characters."
Because Cinderella is the favorite character of her 5-year-old daughter, Sarah, Leibovitz says, "princesses had to be dealt with."
Scarlett Johansson was the first A-lister to sign on. She plays Cinderella, dashing down a staircase with the castle aglow in the distance. The image was photographed on the steps of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial on New York's Riverside Drive with Disney World's Cinderella castle digitally imposed behind her.
"Scarlett Johansson couldn't wait to put on that tiara," Leibovitz says. The Harry Winston creation is valued at $325,000. The glass slipper was made for the shoot by Steuben. Says Johansson, 22, via e-mail, "It wasn't hard to coax my foot into the iconic glass slipper; it's every little girl's dream, mine included."
Neither did Beyoncé Knowles require coaxing to dress up as Alice in Wonderland alongside Lyle Lovett as the March Hare and Oliver Platt as the mischievous Mad Hatter.
"It was Annie's idea for me to play Alice," Knowles says. "If she wanted me to do it, I was up for it, because she's such a genius."
Knowles, 25, says Alice was one of her favorite Disney characters growing up. And, she says, "it is my sister's (Solange Knowles) absolute favorite! She doesn't know I've done it yet, so she's going to get a real trip out of seeing me in the teacup. It was freezing cold in the teacup, but it didn't matter because we were all so excited and it was shot really fast."
The Alice photo shoot took place in a field on Leibovitz's farm in upstate New York. "We had some teacups from Disneyland shipped in," Leibovitz says. "I hadn't realized that they each weighed several hundred pounds. We had to place them with a forklift. It took a whole day to do that, and then I couldn't move them, because the field was wet."
Leibovitz, who will soon dress another set of celebrities as Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and Little Mermaid Ariel, approached British soccer superstar (and new American import) David Beckham, with the concept of playing Sleeping Beauty
's Prince. She asked the 31-year-old whether "prince" was an image he would feel comfortable portraying. Not surprisingly, Beckham was game, and the image was photographed near a lake outside Madrid, where he had been playing soccer for the team Real Madrid. The castle superimposed in the background is from Disneyland Paris.
"I'm the prince, and I'm sort of slaying a dragon, which is something I've never done before, obviously," Beckham says in the Disney press materials. "When I was called about it and asked to do it, I was very honored and really looking forward to it, especially with Annie doing the pictures."
Says Leibovitz: "It seemed perfect for David Beckham, who is a very masculine hero. Saving Sleeping Beauty came natural to him. He's a determined actor, and he became the Prince when he got on that white horse. He was serious about it. My daughter Sarah wanted to know where the dragon was, and I told her that I had left it out of the frame on purpose. I left figures like that up to the viewer's imagination."
He describes himself as a "big kid" who loves to go to theme parks. A fan of Disney characters as a boy, Beckham is now enjoying seeing how these characters are perceived through the eyes of the three children (Brooklyn, 7, Romeo, 4, and Cruz, almost 2) he shares with his wife, Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham.
"The role's reversed now," he says. "It's my sons that love the Disney characters and, you know, it's a big part of their lives; a big part of many children's lives around the world."